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Toronto ombudsman says TTC investigation into alleged racist incident not ‘sufficiently fair’

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto's ombudsman is slamming an investigation conducted by the TTC into an incident involving a young black man and transit enforcement officers. Caryn Lieberman reports.

Toronto’s ombudsman says the Toronto Transit Commission was not “sufficiently fair, thorough or transparent to justify its conclusions” in the public transit agency’s investigation into allegations of misconduct by fare inspectors.

“It was important for the TTC to get this investigation right,” said Ombudsman Susan Opler.

READ MORE: Man arrested on video suing TTC, Toronto police over alleged racial discrimination

According to the ombudsman’s report, on Feb. 18, 2018, at around 5 p.m., three fare inspectors pinned down a black teenager on the streetcar platform at St. Clair West Station. Police officers arrived at the scene, and the teen was forcibly detained and placed in a police cruiser, the report states.

In a video of the incident, the teen can be heard saying: “I didn’t do anything, though” and “you’re hurting me, you’re hurting me, you’re hurting me.”

Footage of the incident was captured by a witness and widely circulated online. Calls were issued for an investigation into whether “unnecessary force [was used] and whether anti-black racism was a factor,” the ombudsman’s report said.
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WATCH: TTC launches investigation after video shows fare inspectors pinning down man

TTC launches investigation after video shows fare inspectors pinning down teen
TTC launches investigation after video shows fare inspectors pinning down teen

“There was widespread concern about the incident, and the public needs to have confidence that the TTC will fairly, thoroughly and transparently investigate incidents like this and fix any problems it finds,” Opler said.

In March 2018, the teenager and his mother launched a lawsuit against the Toronto police and the TTC, alleging he was a victim of racial profiling when the incident took place.

Toronto police also conducted its own investigation and, in April 2018, said it would not lay criminal charges against any of the three inspectors.

The TTC conducted an investigation as well and concluded: “There was insufficient evidence to support any allegation of misconduct.”

In its 95-page report, released on July 4, 2018, the TTC acknowledged that one of the inspectors “had smiled at the young man” during the interaction. The TTC said this inspector later quit his post but that he had done so for “unrelated reasons.”

READ MORE: TTC fare inspector suspended after video shows man detained, pinned to ground

However, the ombudsman’s report found the TTC’s investigation was not adequately “thorough, fair and transparent.” The report said the investigation had “many good features” but “fell short in several important ways,” which included the following:

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  • Asking enough questions
  • Making clear findings of fact
  • Applying the correct standard of proof in some of its analysis
  • Transparently analyzing the evidence in light of the TTC’s expectation that fare
    inspectors will disengage from potentially difficult situations
  • Transparently analyzing evidence that could have supported a finding of
    unconscious racial bias
  • Ensuring adequate independence for the internal investigator for fare
    inspector complaints

The ombudsman made six recommendations as to how the TTC should handle future investigations.

These steps, which the TTC has agreed to implement by the end of 2019, include:

  • Taking steps to ensure that all investigations are independent and impartial
  • Providing additional training to internal investigators
  • Clarifying the standard of proof investigators should use in making findings
  • Seeking expert opinions that are appropriately independent and thorough

The report said Opler will follow up with the TTC until the ombudsman is “satisfied that implementation is complete.”

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